Suffering through the last week because your beloved Vikings missed the playoffs? You are not alone. Here is a look at the reasons a 6-0 team managed to not make the postseason.
Reason # 1: They blew the Arizona and Chicago games, even though they dominated the stats and appeared to have the upper hand in each game. The Chicago game came down to the Randy Moss play in the end zone, with a rookie corner taking the game-winning TD out of his hands as he was pulling it in. The Arizona game had too many mistakes to list here, but after watching the replay of the final Cardinal touchdown in slow and stop motion, I can tell you that there was very little chance that Nathan Poole was coming down with his second foot inbounds before being hit; his foot landed on Denard Walker's thigh and he would have had to readjust while falling out of bounds to complete the catch. Luckily for him and the Packers, the officials blew the call by calling the force-out. You can also see in the replay that Poole pushed off, allowing him the space to make the play, and distracting Walker from making a play on the ball. Hail Mary all over again.
Reason # 2: The offense did not play well on the road late in the season. The offense scored 18, 17, 10, and 17 points in the last four road games, less than 16 points per game.
Reason #3: They lost almost every close game. The Vikings didn't play many tight games this year, but they lost every game decided by three points or less, going 0-3.
They lost games when they led or were tied in the fourth quarter against the Giants, Packers and Cardinals. The only "close" games they won were against Detroit and Chicago at home, when they scored late to break the games open.
Reason #4: They can't come from behind. The only game where they made a significant comeback was against Detroit in the third week, when they trailed 10-0. They made no game-winning drives when trailing late in a game the entire season, and Culpepper threw interceptions late in games when trailing against the Giants, Bears, Raiders and Chargers.
Reason #5: The defense fell apart for a third of the season. They lost five of six after the 6-0 start before righting the ship on defense. Opposing backs ran wild on them during the mid-season dip.
Reason #6: Penalties. They led the league in penalties for the second straight year, killing many offensive drives and sustaining drives for the opponents (See Arizona game). Key stat: The Vikes gave up 36 first downs by penalty and only gained 18. The offensive line was particularly bad with false starts.
Reason #7: Special teams. Management decided to go with rookie kickers this season, and it cost the Vikings dearly. Eddie Johnson's bobbled snap in the Chicago game provided the winning field goal for the Bears, and his bobble against the Rams helped turn a close game into a blowout. Aaron Elling has limited range, and hit only 18 of 25 field goals this year, 72 percent. That may not sound too bad, but he was only 11 of 18 over 30 yards. He missed a key kick in the Cardinals game, and his short range forced the Vikes to go for a fourth-down play at Chicago from the 28-yard line. He also missed two mid-range field goals in the Oakland game.
Reason #8: Key Injuries. Even though they led the league in offense, the Vikings missed Michael Bennett's breakaway speed this year. D'Wayne Bates was hurt most of the year, and is the only consistent receiver other than Moss on the team. The Vikings lacked the explosiveness they are known for at times, piling up yardage but not points. Chris Claiborne's injury problems made the problems at linebacker glaring, as teams picked on him for weeks before the coaches had the young linebackers ready to play.
Reason #9: No pass rush. The Vikes had no consistent pass rush until the last month of the season. Chris Hovan had a bad year. Lance Johnstone had 10 sacks but didn't seem to be a factor most of the time; Kevin Williams had 10-1/2 sacks but three came in the last game. The Vikings had only 37 as a team, with eight coming against the Cardinals.
Reason #10: They lost to bad teams. This is well documented, but you can't lose to teams that are in disarray and ready to fold if you expect to win your division.
San Diego and Oakland were horrible this year, and the Vikes looked pathetic in those games. Arizona was a little better, beating the Packers, Vikes, 49ers, and Bengals at home for their four wins, and nearly beat the Rams. But the Vikes lost key games in December to the Cardinals and Bears when they started rookie quarterbacks, and the Vikings made the key mistakes in both games.
Top 10 Losing Reasons
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